A boy wears a protective face mask inside a jeepney in Quezon City, Metro Manila. Reuters
Manolo B. Jara, Correspondent
President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte denounced as “xenophobia” reported calls for the government to ban all Chinese nationals from visiting the Philippines due to the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus (nCOV) that has alarmed most Filipinos.
“If the question is if I will ban the Chinese from entering the Philippines, the answer, of course, is No. That is an utter disrespect to a human being. The mention of the Chinese and blaming them is xenophobia. Stop this xenophobia thing,” Duterte told a Malacanang Palace media conference.
Duterte held the press conference on Monday night after he presided over an emergency meeting of Cabinet officials to discuss as well as adopt measures to prevent the spread of nCOV in the Philippines.
At the same time, Duterte threatened to seize a drug rehabilitation center inside a military reservation in Nueva Ecija province in Central Luzon, being considered as a possible quarantine site for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who sought to be repatriated from Wuhan City in Hubei province in China, the epicenter of the dreaded ailment.
He was reacting to the stand of Nueva Ecija Governor Aurelio Umali supporting the resolution passed by the provincial board which opposed the use of the rehabilitation center as a quarantine site for the OFWs.
The huge center which remains unused and built as a donation from a Chinese businessman, is located at Fort Magsaysay, the country’s biggest military reservation.
“I will expropriate,” Duterte threatened in reaction to the governor’s stand. “That building is not used. I will take over that building whether you like it or not. In times of emergency, I can do it.”
In a related development, Health Secretary Francisco Duque assured a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health that the government has adopted measures to prevent the spread of the disease in the country.
Duque also revealed that Duterte had released $40 million for the purchase of protective gear for the health workers actively engaged and attending to the estimated 80 patients under investigation (PUIs) confined in government hospitals in Metro Manila and in the provinces.
Freshman Senator Christopher Go, the former presidential assistant and the committee chairman, conducted the hearing following confirmed reports of two nCOV patients in the Philippines — a female Chinese student and her boyfriend who arrived in the country from Wuhan via Hong Kong on Jan. 25.
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